Man Utd mauling fuels Liverpool’s title drive

Disregard the history of this fixture and the massive rivalry between the two sides and this result shouldn’t really be seen as much of a surprise. After all, two weeks ago Liverpool won 3-0 at Southampton, who sit just one place below Manchester United in the table, so — logically at least — this victory was a likely outcome.
David Usher

Logic aside though, it was still Manchester United at Old Trafford, so for Kopites the 3-0 result and performance was the stuff dreams are made of; it was just complete and utter dominance in a fixture which usually brings nothing but misery to the Merseysiders.
Interestingly, the last time Liverpool won so easily at Old Trafford they were also in a title race, in the 2008-09 season. The margin of victory that day was three goals, Nemanja Vidic was sent off, Steven Gerrard scored from the penalty spot and then famously kissed a TV camera. Six years on history repeated itself, but if anything this performance was far more dominant. Liverpool were in control of this game from first minute to last; it was men against boys. Or if you like: Bren against Moyes.

Brendan Rodgers’ tactical nous left his United counterpart completely in the shade. The gulf in class between the two sides was massive, but when you look at the quality still in the United team that shouldn’t really be the case. Yet one side looked organised, confident, well coached, and the other was… well the other was Manchester United; a disjointed, uninspired mess.

Gerrard was imperious, but just as after the victory at Southampton, he was keen to heap accolades on Rodgers: “I think you’ve got to give credit to the manager,” he said. “He keeps switching it, tinkering with the formation and the tactics. We played a diamond today and totally bossed it in the middle of the park.”

Rodgers deserves as much credit as any of Liverpool’s players for what the Reds have done so far this season and it’s little wonder morning reports claimed he was on the radar of Barcelona. Liverpool play beautiful football, they score goals for fun and they’re tactically flexible. It’s a happy camp with a great team spirit too, which is always a reflection of how the manager runs things. Rodgers has worked a minor miracle to get the Reds where they are so quickly and without spending huge sums of money.

Moyes on the other hand has spent £70 million pounds on a squad that won the title by eleven points last season and he’s somehow taken them to seventh place. That takes some doing, and what has happened at Old Trafford is almost beyond the wildest dreams of United’s rivals. Worryingly for United fans, Liverpool won this at a canter whilst also missing a penalty and with neither Luis Suarez or Daniel Sturridge at their brilliant best. Don’t get me wrong, Liverpool played well and the front two more than played their part in the victory, but they can play much better, as Arsenal, Everton and Spurs will testify. Such is Manchester United’s level these days that even a Liverpool side in third gear could swat them aside with relative ease.

It’s also a sign of the times that an away side can go to Old Trafford now and be awarded three penalties. It perhaps should have been five, as Suarez stayed on his feet after being clipped twice by Marouane Fellaini when he would surely have been awarded a spot kick had he hit the deck, whilst a blatant trip by Michael Carrick on Sturridge was waved away by referee Mark Clattenburg, presumably out of pity for the shell-shocked home side. By then Liverpool were 2-0 up courtesy of two spot kicks that had been given — and converted by Captain Fantastic — and United had been reduced to ten men as Vidic collected his now customary red card in this fixture.

United fans will be sorry to see crowd favourite Vidic depart for Inter Milan at the end of the season, but not half as sorry as Liverpool fans will be. Four times he’s been red carded in this fixture. Any chance of a rethink Nemanja?

The Serb was furious with Sturridge for the incident that led to the third penalty and his red card, accusing the striker of diving. Sturridge certainly played for the penalty and went down under minimal contact, but if you fly in, go to ground and don’t get the ball then more often than not you’ll find yourself conceding a spot kick and picking up at least a yellow card. Sturridge could have stayed on his feet, but having seen the fate that befell his strike partner in the first half he took no chances. Honesty is not always the best policy, not when it comes to winning penalties.

Vidic can consider himself a little unfortunate to be the only one taking an early bath as both Rafael Da Silva and Jon Flanagan could easily have walked had Clattenburg not shown leniency. United’s Brazilian full-back was incredibly fortunate not to be given a second yellow card when conceding the first penalty, whilst Flanagan was walking a tight rope after an early booking and could easily have gone when he caught Rafael with a late challenge after the break.

The official probably got both of those calls wrong but at least he showed consistency in his judgement. Liverpool fans were just thankful that Howard Webb hadn’t been wheeled out for the fixture, although even good old Howard would have had difficulty waving away Liverpool’s numerous penalty appeals in this game.

Moyes pointed to the part the official played in the result, but if his players keep committing fouls in the penalty area then what’s a referee to do? Liverpool defended superbly and the midfield did a fine job of squeezing the space in front of them, meaning United found it almost impossible to get in behind.

Simon Mignolet made one relatively easy save to deny Wayne Rooney just before half time, but aside from that the Liverpool goalkeeper’s only real involvement was with the ball at his feet as he played keep ball with his back four. Rarely this season has the Belgian had a more comfortable 90 minutes away from the fortress of Anfield.

The undoubted star of the show was Gerrard, who was once again simply magnificent. The skipper has had the bit between his teeth for several weeks now; he can sense that the title is within reach and you can see in his eyes that he truly believes Liverpool can win it. The belief and desire from Gerrard is spreading through the team week by week and there’s little doubt now that Liverpool’s players feel that they can land the title this season.

And why shouldn’t they? The question in recent weeks has been: “Can Liverpool win the title?” Well Rodgers and his players have answered that one; it’s an emphatic “yes they can”. The question now is not “can” they win the title, but “will” they win it?. That one is impossible to answer of course, but as of right now, Liverpool have as good a chance as anybody, which was not the case going into this weekend.

Posted by on Mar 17 2014. Filed under Actualités, Featured, Sports. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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